The foundations of offshore structures have been intensively studied to provide design guidelines for oil platforms. Recently, techniques developed for the oil industry have found new applications in the design of foundations for offshore wind turbines. There are simplified analytical solutions for the holding capacity of suction anchors, which are based on postulated failure mechanisms and are often compared with the results of finite element analyses. The merit of the results of a finite element analysis over the simplified solutions is that the finite element analysis satisfies all the basic equations in mechanics and does not require the assumption of reasonable failure mechanisms. The aim of this study is, based on the results of extensive finite element analyses, to provide a set of formulae for the estimation of the holding capacities of optimally loaded suction caisson anchors embedded in cohesive soils with a linear strength distribution. The bearing capacity factor and the depth of the optimal loading point are also estimated and reported. Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.